General Trinh is delivering papers

  by: Walter Guest



The six man firing squad was in place, more or less. They lounged about in their positions talking to each other while waiting for further orders. Two of them squatted. Two of them smoked.

The Ayatollah Rashad Hassim was pleased at the turnout. Hundreds of people crowded the square. There seemed to be far more Kurds than Iranians for a change. The Kurds hung back though, letting the Iranians have the choice view up front. It would have been better the other way, but the Ayatollah knew there was nothing he could do about it. The western press, of course, had been barred from the actual execution although they had been allowed at the trial. Those newsmen always wrote biased stories about executions, failing to realize all the good that came from them.

The guards hustled Mohammed Parsee to the wall in front of the firing squad where an officer waited. The wall was heavily scarred from previous executions. The ground there smelled badly from human excrement released involuntarily by other victims at the moment of death.

"His hands are not tied?" The officer made it half a comment, half a question.

The guards stood Mohammed Parsee against the wall facing the six soldiers.

"It is not necessary," the Ayatollah said.

Mohammed Parsee slumped in his fatigue uniform, making it seem much larger on him that it was.

"Does he want a blindfold?" the officer asked.

"No blindfold," the Ayatollah said sharply. "I want him to see everything."

The soldiers looked at their target without much interest. One didn't look at him at all.

The two guards walked to the side, will out of the line of fire. They stood there and gazed around at the crowd.

"Stand up straight!" the Ayatollah ordered the prisoner. "Have you no pride?"

Mohammed Parsee didn't move a muscle. His head was bowed. He stared at the ground.

The Ayatollah signaled to the officer. The officer walked off to the side of the firing squad and called them to attention. The soldiers stood in a ragged formation. One kept smoking.

This man, the Ayatollah thought, is cheating me. He is making a fool of me. We promised an American CIA agent and this is what we give them. He reached out a hand and lifted Mohammed Parsee's chin to make him see the firing squad. "Do you want to live?" he asked him.

"Yes, Ayatollah." Mohammed Parsee said.

"Tell the truth and you will live," Rashad Hassim lied to him. "Confess that you are an American agent."

"How will that save me?" Mohammed Parsee asked humbly.

"If we could confirm that you are an American agent we could then exchange you."

"For an Iranian agent in the United States?"

For a split second the Ayatollah imagined he saw mockery in the man's eyes, then it was gone and he wasn't sure it had ever been there. It was infuriating not to be certain who this man was. He again considered postponing the execution until this enigmatic man was properly tortured. But it was too late for that. The Ayatollah signaled the officer to proceed. When the Ayatollah took his had away, Mohammed Parsee again dropped his head and stared at the ground in front of him.

"Ready," the officer called.

The soldiers brought up their rifles.

"Aim."

The Ayatollah Rashad Hassim was still beside the prisoner. He signaled a halt and once again lifted Mohammed Parsee's chin that he might see the rifles aimed at him. "This is the moment of you death," he said. "It is still not too late to save yourself."

With the Ayatollah's hand firmly grasping his chin, Mohammed Parsee spoke with difficulty. "I bow to Allah's will," he said.

"Imbecile!" The Ayatollah pulled away his hand and walked off to the side in disgust.

When he turned back strange things were happening. With a great whoosh, a cloud of haze enveloped the firing squad. The six men and the officer fell to the ground as if they'd been shot. And then, as if that had been the signal, the sound was repeated all over the square. People were falling to the ground everywhere he looked.

The Ayatollah turned and started to run. A haze overtook him. The last thing he remembered was something hitting him. It was the ground.

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